The Modern Day War Elephant: The Tank
The Tank , invented during World War I has changed the concept of war and emerged as a major strike weapon in modern war
Essential for a battle victory
The First World War started with horse cavalry and these were used in charges at the beginning of the war till 1916. But after that the horse cavalry became redundant as the tank appeared on the scene. The tank was an armored vehicle on caterpillar wheels and supported along range field gun. This revolutionized warfare as never before and by the end of the war was a permanent fixture in all armies of the world. The Germans in particular developed it to a great extant and launched their panzer divisions.
The Tank in WW II
The Second World War established the tank as the most formidable weapon of the army and the Germans incorporated it in their new theories of war fare, notably the lightening war or Blitzkrieg. It was the tank that spearheaded the advance of Rommel in the desert war and it was at Kursk in 1943 when the greatest of tank battles was ever fought.
The Tank in Modern War
But the tanks efficacy in jungle warfare and mountainous regions was suspect. Thus the tank found minimal use in the Japanese campaigns on the islands and Burma. Even in the 1962 war with china very little use of the tank was made. But in the desert and the flat plains of Punjab and Europe it was decisive. A limiting factor on the lethalness of the tank is air power. Here Douhet’s theory prevailed and the tank's success is dependent on a ‘favorable air situation’ Without mastery of the air the tank can became a sitting duck as at Longonwal in the 1971 war when the Pak armor thrust was blunted by the Indian air Force.
The tank is finding minimal use in Afghanistan, but in the Iraq war it played a crucial role and Saddam lost with the thrust of US armor on Baghdad. The tank is now a strike weapon. With adequate air support the tank can strike deep into enemy territory. The largest tank force is maintained by the Russians as they have a strategic plan for assaulting NATO in Europe.